Climate hydrologist Diego Miralles receives NWO Veni grant

The grant enables Miralles to disentangle the role of soil moisture in the intensification of climate extremes using a novel approach.

08/05/2014 | 2:30 PM

Diego Miralles has been awarded a prestigious Veni grant from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). With this grant NWO gives talented researchers the opportunity to develop their ideas during three years. The grant amounts to a maximum of 250.000 Euros and will enable Miralles to expand the research on land effects on climate within the Department of Earth Sciences at VU University Amsterdam.

During the last ten years, droughts and heatwaves in Europe have raised death tolls by tens of thousands, and led to economic losses by several billion euros. While the impact of climate change on these events still remains unclear, it is believed that the presence of drier soils in the summer has (by itself) contributed to increase extreme temperatures and rainfall scarcity. As large continental regions are expected to become overall drier, there is a concern that droughts and heatwaves may be further aggravated.

Using a unique combination of satellite data, balloon sounding measurements and meteorological modelling, Miralles aims to disentangle the role of soil moisture in the intensification of climate extremes. Miralles: “This novel approach based on the physical interpretation of satellite and in-situ measurements can help uncover where these climatic extremes will aggravate in coming decades and whether IPCC climate models can reproduce this aggravation.”

Diego Miralles' career
Diego Miralles graduated with a BSc in Environmental Sciences (U.A. Madrid, Spain) and an MSc in Hydrology and Ecohydrology (V.U. Amsterdam). In 2008 he joined the Hydrology and Remote Sensing Lab (USA Department of Agriculture) to work on the retrieval of soil moisture from satellites. He returned to the V.U. in 2009 to steer his research towards the study of the magnitude and variability of continental evaporation. Two years later, this work led to the development of the satellite-based evaporation model GLEAM, that served as benchmark for his PhD thesis. During the last three years, Miralles has been assistant professor in Hydrology and Climate at the University of Bristol (UK) and is co-affiliated to the Laboratory of Hydrology and Water Management at Ghent University (Belgium). Currently, he coordinates a number of projects from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO).